Thursday, November 20, 2014

President Obama's Executive Action: If only a good speech made it right..

After watching President Obama's speech tonight on his planned executive actions concerning potentially millions of illegal immigrants in American today, I have to admit, it was a good speech. In fact, it's probably the most honest and heartfelt speech he has given in YEARS...

But that's doesn't make what he said good policy, or any less constitutionally questionable.

As those on the left have preached for a week or so now, the idea of presidents issuing executive orders to extend some form of "amnesty" or protection to illegal immigrants is NOT new.

But as we covered in an earlier piece, the CONTEXT of those earlier executives is important to remember. When presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. issued their executive orders, they did so in direct connection to a very recently passed federal law.

What President Obama has proposed tonight is to do something a bit, "grander". Instead of acting in concert with an existing/recently passed federal immigration law, he is moving to modify the ENTIRE immigration enforcement system.

Does a President truly have the constitutional authority to do such a thing?

Hardline conservatives should have you believe he most certainly does not, but to be truly honest, it's all grey area. Why?

Because the constitutionality of ANY "executive order" is questionable. For those who have read Article II of the U.S. Constitution, you will fail to find any reference or inference to something resembling what we today call an executive order.

Not surprising, because of this legal grey area concerning EOs, they have from time to time been challenged in federal court. These range from the Supreme Court declaring Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War (which the court's decision was ignored by the President) to FDR's executive order authorizing the removal of thousands of Japanese immigrants and their American citizen descendants to internment camps for the remainder of World War II.

The vast majority of EOs however are never challenged in court or even by Congress and are rarely controversial. Likely at least partially due to the fact that most EOs actually only pertain to the activities that few would deputy belong solely to the Executive Branch.

Today, the issue and legality of executive orders has only become a major issue in the last ~10 years or so with liberals decrying many of President Bush's EOs and conservatives losing their minds over President Obama's.

I could go on for days about the debate over "executive orders" in American democracy, but lets get back to the topic at hand..

I actually understand the chief argument most liberals and "progressives" are using to justify the President's actions tonight: If Congress won't do something to fix our broken immigration system, then the President should.

But let me put that argument on its head for a second.

If you are SO sure that your actions are morally justified and are in the country's best interest, why not bring your case to the American public before you decide to act unilaterally? If the GOP-control Congress has been such an obstructive force as you claim, why not present that case to the American public? Not why launch a campaign to shame the Congress into acting? Why not use the 'bully pulpit' as so many great presidents have before you to bring your case to the American people directly?

Instead, we saw the President wasting the 'bully pulpit' and impassioned speech justifying his unilateral and legally questionable actions and THEN try to the put the pressure on Congress to follow his lead.

What a waste indeed..but a complete one, at least for the President.

While I may think the President's speech was a waste of the 'bully pulpit', it's hard to deny the strength of it and how much trouble he has potentially made for the GOP-controlled Congress. Even before his speech, dissatisfaction with the President's proposed action was NOT as high as you might think.

A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out on Wednesday showed that 48% of those polled disagreed with the President's proposed executive actions. 38% were supportive of his proposal and 14% were not sure one way or another.

These kind of stats left the President will SOME "wiggle room" before to speech to increase the support for his plan..and it's hard to argue that this speech won't HELP his odds of getting more public support for it.

Further, this action by the President could ultimately prove a vital moment for the GOP, because it has now made immigration reform one of THE debates that will shape the Republican presidential field in 2016. A battle to be fought between those who favor some form of comprehension immigration reform and those dead-set against any reform beyond "secure the border and deport them all".

So now the war is on, how will the GOP response to the President's executive action? Will they go for subtle yet effective challenge through funding battles and court cases, or go the proverbial jugular: impeachment?

Keep sharp folks, this political battle has only just begun..


All comments and/or opinions expressed in the above work are purely those of the author unless otherwise noted and do not represent that opinions/positions of any political or non-political organization or the Department of the Defense. Any/all distribution of this work MUST contain this disclaimer. 

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